Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin
For many people filing for divorce is a difficult decision. Whether or not you are certain that you want to file for divorce, it helps to research the basics of the Wisconsin divorce process first. Should you conclude that a divorce is necessary, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney to guide you throughout the process.
Grounds for divorce
A divorce is a judicial decree by which a valid marriage is dissolved. From a legal standpoint, the divorce process will divide the couple’s assets and debts; determine the future care and custody of their children; and give each person the legal right to marry someone else.
Every state has some form of “no-fault divorce,” but the laws vary a great deal from state to state. Generally, a divorce will be granted if one spouse states that the marriage has irretrievably broken down or the couple has irreconcilable differences. (Other residency and filing requirements must also be met.) This is different from the past, when only “fault divorces” were available. In a fault divorce, one spouse must allege a marital wrong like adultery or abuse in order to receive a divorce.
Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine how to pursue divorce.
Resolving issues during divorce
Before a divorce may be granted, five basic issues typically must be resolved. They are:
- Alimony – Spousal maintenance
- Property and debt division
- Child custody
- Visitation/parenting time
- Child support
If the spouses can reach an agreement on these issues, then the divorce is uncontested. If, however, the spouses cannot agree, the divorce is contested and spouses may decide to go to trial to resolve the issues. However, more often than not, divorces can be settled before going to court – it is important to work with a skilled attorney who can negotiate a favorable settlement.
In cases where the divorcing parties simply cannot agree, alternatives to going to court include mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce.
- Mediation. Mediation is an alternative to litigation that can be less expensive and less stressful for divorcing couples and their children. In the mediation process, the couple works with a trained mediator to reach agreement on contested issues.
- Arbitration. Arbitration is more like court than mediation, but it can still be quicker and less expensive. Instead of using a judge to decide the outcome, the parties agree to use an arbitrator. Each spouse will have a separate attorney who will represent each spouse’s interests.
- Collaborative divorce. Collaborative law is a divorce process that requires an up-front commitment to resolving divorce issues by negotiation, compromise and agreement. Jane E. Probst is a certified family law mediator as well as a founding member of the Collaborative Divorce Council of Wisconsin.
Alimony, spousal support and maintenance
Alimony (called spousal maintenance in Wisconsin) is financial support that one spouse pays to the other. In Wisconsin spousal maintenance can come in a lump sum, over a limited period of time or indefinitely. It is best to consult with a Wisconsin family law attorney with your questions about Wisconsin spousal maintenance. Some factors that a family court judge may consider in determining spousal maintenance include the length of the marriage and the ability of each spouse to earn a living.
Division of marital property in Wisconsin
Wisconsin uses the community property system. Community property divides everything a married couple acquired during the marriage 50/50 upon divorce. To make the division of property decision between the divorcing spouses, the court uses the financial records, including all the income, real estate and personal property, investments and stocks, retirement accounts, etc., and the debts of each spouse to calculate the division or marital property.
Speak to an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney
Making the decision to end a marriage is difficult. Even so, it is in your best interest to approach the divorce process from a rational, businesslike perspective. Working with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney will help you get through the divorce process. For a Free Consultation, call 414-210-3135 or use our online form.